The great potato blight of 1845 is an historic event, not only because of the tragedy that it caused - the death of a million Irish peasants by starvation in the wake of the destruction of Ireland's entire potato crops - but because it paved the way for the discovery of an amazing phenomenon in nature.
Throughout the course of this disaster, scientists sought an explanation for the devastation of potato crops, and yet met dead ends at every turning - until eight years later when a young German biologist named Anton de Bary established how fungal spores penetrated plant leaves and propagated in their tissues, ultimately causing death to their host.
Anton de Bary had, as a child, been driven to blaze his own path in the study of plants and their diseases by the horrors of the devastating potato blight. His intense studies and experimentation would later lay the foundation for mycology [The study or science of fungi. ] , back then a relatively new area of research. With his publication of Understanding Plant Disease in 1853 and his growing reputation as an expert in the field, the hard-pressed English government and the Royal AgriculturalContinued page 3/24